Now, we've all made and received countless Christmas cards over the years but have you ever wondered where it all began?
Henry Cole was part of the 'elite' in early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.
By 1843, those friends had become quite a pain in the backside with all their letters
A custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the 'Penny Post,' allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.
And everybody who was anybody sent letters! Cole was quite an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A List Celebrity, but he was also a very busy man, fretting over what to do when there were stacks of unanswered correspondence. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people."
Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”
This was the first Christmas card...